Miami (November 8, 2013)—The Inter American Press Associaiton (IAPA) today welcomed as a substantial advance for press freedom in Jamaica passage of an amendment that abolished criminal libel and puts the Caribbean nation’s legislation in line with inter-American legal parameters on the making this no longer a criminal offense.
The Jamaica House of Representatives on Tuesday (November 5) adopted the amended Defamation Act 2013 which in July was unanimously passed by the Senate. It replaces the decades-old libel and slander laws dating back to 1851 and 1961.
In addition to this repeal the amendment includes the abolition of the distinction between libel and slander to establish a single cause of action to be known as defamation, and reduces the limitation period for actions in defamation from six to two years.
IAPA President Elizabeth Ballantine, editor of the Durango Herald, Durango, Colorado, said, “The decriminalization of libel and slander in Jamaica is a substantial advance for press freedom and aligns the local law to international standards on this matter.”
The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, added “The fact that no one is going to suffer the consequence of going to jail opens up information and means less self-censorship on the part of journalists and news media, thus strengthening democracy.”
The IAPA through its Chapultepec project has established initiatives for ending defamation as a criminal offense. This has been achieved in Argentina, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama and Uruguay. In Granada there is a law that is not yet in effect, while in Chile partial elimination has been approved, but libel and slander remain in the Penal Code.
In Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago there are under debate legislative bills to make defamation no longer a criminal offense.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.